European Defence Agency, July 17, 2013 - Starting today, Portugal hosts the multinational helicopter exercise HOT BLADE 2013 (HB13) at Ovar Military Airfield, near Porto.
More than 700 military personnel, 26 helicopters and seven fixed wing aircraft from Austria, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Portugal participate in the exercise, which lasts until 31 July 2013. HB13 is part of the European Defence Agency's Helicopter Training Programme.
HB13 allows European helicopter crews to practice operations in a hot, high and dusty environment, simulating the challenge and the dynamic conditions that participating forces encounter if they deploy to current theatres of operation.
Besides the focus on flying in challenging environmental conditions, the exercise is developed to train joint interoperability tasks including Air Assault (AA), Special Operations Aviation (SOA), Combat Service Support (CSS), Close Air Support (CAS) including Urban CAS and Emergency CAS, Convoy/helicopter escorts, Reconnaissance and Security (R&S) operations, Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR), Personnel Recovery (PR), Military/Non Military extractions (NEO Ops), Medical Evacuation (MEDEVAC) and Casualty Evacuation (CASEVAC).
The exercise is developed on a building block approach design, starting with cross-training activities on small COMAO missions, in order to build a mutual understanding of each participant’s equipment and standard operational procedures. As the exercises progresses the complexity and numbers of assets in each COMAO missions increase. Crews from all nations will use for the first time standing operating procedures.
Helicopter Training Programme
HB13 builds on EDA’s Helicopter Training Programme which is consisting of the HEP (Helicopter Exercise Programme), HTC (Helicopter Tactics Course), EHTIC (European Helicopter Tactics Instructors Course), OELC (Operational English Language Course), DisSim CCD (Distributed Simulation Capability Concept Demonstrator) and the Basic Helicopter Flying Training (BHFT) projects/programmes.
The exercise programme has so far delivered five multinational exercises with 123 helicopters, 227 crews and over 5,000 personnel participating. Over 50% crews that have attended these exercises later subsequently deployed to Afghanistan. In November 2012, defence ministers of thirteen nations signed a ten years programme arrangement for the Helicopter Exercise Programme. This commitment is a concrete indication that training together is an integral part of European capability and interoperability.
“HB13 is the 6th EDA helicopter exercise, but it is also the first in many ways. It is the first exercise in a 10-year programme agreed by thirteen countries, it is the first exercise where we are flying to commonly agreed procedures, and most excitingly for me, it is the first exercise where we have been able to introduce instructors – who themselves are graduates from the first European Helicopter Tactics Instructors Course. These instructors drawn from Germany, Sweden and UK are the ‘best of the best’ and I am looking forward to seeing them mentor some of the less experienced crews, as they meet the planning and flying challenges of the exercise”, said Wing Commander Andy Gray, in charge of EDA’s Helicopter Training Programme.